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Breakup of Large School Districts

August 20, 1995

* Re "L.A. Schools Chief Says He Won't Fight Breakup Effort," Aug. 10:

There is a new kid on the block in the debate over the breakup of the Los Angeles Unified School District. The new option is the education reform measure, the Care for Kids initiative, already filed with the attorney general's office, that is being planned for the November, 1996, general election. If passed in its current form, one of its provisions will mandate the breakup of all school districts that exceed 50,000 students, meaning that at least 13 new districts would replace the existing LAUSD. It will strengthen the hand of local proponents of decentralization.

The Care for Kids initiative will also mandate comprehensive testing of all public school students to help enforce a merit system for both teachers and students. It is amazing to say it, but literacy will again become a requirement for high school graduation! This initiative, when it becomes law, will loosen the iron grip of the teachers' unions by mandating open shops, tenure reform and merit pay. We expect two important long-term benefits: It will again professionalize the teaching vocation, and it will save another generation of schoolchildren from the tragedy of being warehoused in the name of education.

DAVID ANDERSON

L.A. County Director

Care for Kids Initiative Campaign

* Your editorial about legislation to ease the breakup of LAUSD (July 31) was condescending and misleading. It suggested the school district is sitting passively, while others strive for ways to improve schools.

Here are the facts. Contrary to the premise of your editorial, the Board of Education has no plans to sue to block the new bills regarding the process to break up the district. Should specific proposals emerge to create new districts, we will, of course, review them carefully to ensure the interests of all our students are protected.

All stake-holders in our district have been working hard to deliver true local control and a more responsive and accountable system. Through our ambitious Los Angeles Educational Alliance for Restructuring Now (LEARN) reform effort, nearly 200 schools have already assumed greater autonomy and are being held accountable for student performance. LEARN schools control their own budget and have authority over hiring principals, teachers and other staff. We intend for all schools to participate in LEARN over the next four years.

In recognition for the promise of these reforms, the Annenberg Foundation made a $53-million challenge grant to promote reform throughout Los Angeles. Further, we have approved more charter schools than any district in California. The district has decentralized to 27 local community clusters, placing decision-making at a local level rather than Downtown. MARK SLAVKIN, President

Board of Education, LAUSD

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